Teach Me How to Whisper
“You should come with us,” my friend Catherine issued the simple invitation that led me to participate in the Annual Sunrise Ceremony in honor of the ancestors who journeyed the Middle Passage hundreds of years ago. This memory came back to me recently reminding me of the ways in which a friend can touch your life, guiding you on a path that may help you to become that better person that we all yearn to be. I left my house at 4 A.M. that morning and joined a throng of thirty or so celebrants, children of the diaspora, from hybrid heritage like myself: African American, Jamaican, Barbadian, Puerto Rican, and my friend Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez, born in Trinidad of mixed African and Native American/Carib ancestry to whisper soft words of tribute into the mist of the morning. We gathered together at sunrise on the shore of Virginia Key Beach, once the only beach legally opened to people of color in south Florida, chanted to the beat of drums, shared remembrances and called out to our ancestors, those who survived the journey and those whose lives were buried at sea, thanking them for their courage and resiliency, and affirming our responsibility to act with courage and determination to ensure that our off-springs were embraced into the rich cultural legacy they had bequeathed us. We then participated in the simple ritual, each of us placing a fruit, blades of grass, a flower, or plant on the makeshift raft, that we then let loose onto the ocean, an offering that symbolized our connection to the water, the land, a history of suffering, triumph and redemption and a commitment to teach others how to whisper softly in honor of the ancestors.
After several years of not seeing each other, this Wednesday, Catherine and I will meet for lunch. “You should join me for lunch,” she said on Sunday over the telephone in her Trinidadian/Miamian lilt. “Let us catch up each with another; see how you doing and then you can tell me about that sound a hearing in yo’ voice.” Shaman that she is, she is always reading between the lines, seeing through the smoke screen, getting at the heart of the matter. And so I am looking forward to a simple lunch with my friend, once again filled with the intention of spiritual discovery.